Truly one of nature's most playful gifts, the world of mushrooms are growing in popularity. Their nutrient density and healing potential are becoming common knowledge. Yet still clouded in mystery, the mushroom kingdom is at the forefront of biology in 2021.
Neither plants nor animals, mushrooms belong in a category of their own classification. They are eukaryotic organisms that absorb nutrients from other organic matter. When a tree falls, or an animal dies, fungi show up to participate in the natural process of decomposition.
Loaded with nutritional value, mushrooms are the only plant-based, unfortified food that provides a substantial level of vitamin D. From an Ayurvedic perspective, mushrooms offer Tamasic properties. Their earthiness is a sign of mushrooms' ability to keep you grounded and calm your nervous system.
Here are some of my favorites:
Lion’s Mane is a unique adaptogenic mushroom that has much research suggesting that it improves cognitive function, boosts memory power, and balances the central nervous system. It does this by stimulating Neural Growth Factor- a neurotrophic protein that enables the growth, replication, repair and of our neurons. Lion’s Mane may help increases REM sleep which enables neural plasticity to occur in the brain. This is when our brains process our days' thoughts and events.
Chaga is a type of fungi that thrives in very cold climates. Rich in minerals like zinc, magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, and amino acids, Chaga is a powerful fungus. It is believed to enhance cognitive function by helping restore acetylcholine levels within the brain.
Cordyceps are believed to improve many aspects of cognitive performance specifically learning capacity and memory. This in turn can help to increase mental clarity, banish brain fog and improve productivity. Cordyceps are believed to increase the body’s production of a molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is necessary for delivering energy to the muscles. This fungus has been used to treat fatigue in Traditional Chinese Medicine for Centuries.
Maitake means "dancing mushroom" in Japanese. It got its name because stumbling upon this fungi prompted the finder to dance for joy. Its rich beta-glucan content has immune-supporting effects as well and anti-viral properties. Maitake helps to promote natural balance and healthy stress response in the body.
Within the Reishi mushroom are several molecules, including triterpenoids, polysaccharides, and peptidoglycans that according to many Eastern Medicine practices offer the body vitality and longevity. Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners often use Reishi to calm the Shen (Spirit or Mind). It has been a tool commonly used to prepare the mind for meditation because of its harmonizing effects and its ability to calm the stress response in the adrenal glands.
Shiitake is another fungus with mood-enhancing capabilities. Adaptogenic qualities in Shiitake can help the body adapt to stress by regulating the nervous system response resulting in enhanced mental and physical performance.